31 Horror Films #24: Detention 2011 Dir. Joseph Kahn

Last year I did a series of daily micro blogs going through the history of horror films by year. This was meant to give people an example of the high points of the genre. This year I'll be doing the same thing, but going off the beaten path to provide some films you may not have heard of. These films may not be up your alley, but they're all interesting.

Detention 2011 Dir. Joseph Kahn

We live in a post-modern society. Everything we seem to create is a cultural reference or callback to some previous work. We’ve seen this kind of postmodernism used in horror before, once could say that Madhouse was a comment on life, imitating art, imitating life. The casting of Vincent Price as an ageing horror star, couldn’t have been coincidence. Postmodernism is also the lynch-pin of Cabin in the Woods, which is less a horror film and more a thesis on horror films: what we expect from them and why we enjoy them. It seems as though we’re experiencing a strange referential golden age, particularly with regard to "scary movies", and while it’s easy to just reference something as a short hand for actual thought and content, it can be done in new and inventive ways, as in the film Detention.

Ostensibly, about a loser teenage girl, who’s in love with the most popular kid in school, and the nerd loser who’s in love with her. Detention appears to be a copy of every teen movie ever made, but the characters often break the forth wall to comment on the idiotic and shallow behavior of teen movie archetypes. This Brechtian technique, oddly enough, lulls us into a falls sense of security. Characters who talk to the fourth wall aren’t often murder victims, however within the first five minutes of Detention, we see the most popular girl in school fall victim to an 80s slasher film villain. This lets us know that the filmmakers aren’t playing it safe, as a matter of fact, we don’t know what game their playing at all, let alone how they’re playing it. And that's what stikes us about Detention within the first five minutes, is how...undefinable it is.

This film is all the things. No really, it is a callback to 90s teen films (which in turn is a callback to 80s teen films), it is a sci-fi adventure film with aliens and time travel, it is a slasher-film and meta-murder mystery, it also has tangential plot involving a radiation poisoned football player with a television for a hand, and a stuffed, alien bear that is also a time machine. This movie takes post-modernist horror to a hilarious and brilliant conclusion. If you liked Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil as well as Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, you might be able to take Detention. It’s not for everyone, but those who enjoy it, will fall in love.

Watch the trailer HERE